There are specific employee groups that learning professionals have come to assume don't need training — or, if these groups do need training, training teams needn't offer them many training opportunities, if any at all. And yet other groups in organizations receive training consistently. Many companies regularly implement training for customer service, sales, and operations functions, but rarely do the same for marketing, finance, and engineering employees.
Why? Because HR and training managers typically tacitly give them a pass — and assume these folks were hired because they already know how to do the job. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean they don't still have plenty to learn. Everyone does. So what to do?
There are alternative methods that can be used with audiences like this to help them improve at doing their jobs, serving customers, and managing their departments. I offer three ideas — the DEMOFest, the internal conference, and bringing in guest speakers from outside your industry. Take a look and decide which one might best suit your needs:
DEMOFest: Show Off Your Project
A DEMOfest is an event during which people show off what projects they are working on. I have seen DEMOFests at two conferences DEVLearn 2010 and at an ASTD Sacramento Chapter event. Although this is a good idea to implement at a conference, it is a great idea for an internal event in many organizations. Your training team should consider organizing a DEMOFest in your organization based on a certain theme and have people from departments all over your organization come in and show off their projects. This is easy for product managers who could show off new products in the pipeline. But what about people in HR or IT or Finance. HR could show off plans for a new performance management system. IT professionals could show off new technologies that will help employees work more effectively. Finance professionals could show off new methods for determine how deparments order supplies for their groups. These are just a few ideas. A DEMOFest is also a great way to bring people together from parts of the organization that do not often interact.
Run Your Own Conference
There are many valuable reasons to attend conferences, and most people would say that they learned a lot from conferences they attend. Well, if these conferences are such a valuable learning experience, why not create one inside your company. Many organizations do this (Dell and GE, for example), and find that is a great way to bring people together and learn new things. You can do a full blown internal conference and hold it at a hotel in your city, or you can start small and host the conference in your office. But either way, make it feel like a conference. Pick a theme, have registration, badges, keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and don't forget about coffee breaks and lunch.
Bring in Guest Speakers
Another learning experience that the training department could get in the habit of organizing is inviting guest speakers to speak to your employees. You could invite these guest speakers to speak to all employees or to specific employee groups. Guest speakers could be the VP of Marketing in your company, the social media manager for a company in your town that you admire, a local college professor, or even an author of a book that you enjoyed. Google does this, and then puts the talks on YouTube. Some of these guest speakers would gladly do this for free and others would require a fee, but there should be no shortage of people who want to speak in front of others to talk about what they know. Inviting guest speakers into your organization is a great way to introduce ideas from sources outside of your industry to get your people thinking outside of their comfort zones. If you cannot bring in guest speakers, take your people to guest speakers. Many book stores bring in authors to talk about their books, why not find those schedules and announce to people in your organization that they could attend this interesting author talk at the local book store.
Creativity is the Limit
These are just a few ways that training professionals can create learning experiences (I didn't even mention book clubs) for people who “don't need training.” What have you done to create learning experiences that do not involve formal training classes? Comment below with your stories.
Bill Cushard, Chief Learning Officer at The Knowland Group, is a learning leader with more than 12 years experience in training and performance improvement at companies such as E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable.